CoCo Health: New Data Shows Tobacco, Alcohol and Sugary Drinks Still Being Promoted to Youth

March 5, 2014 14:10 pm · 31 comments


Stores in Contra Costa County regularly carry and promote harmful products such as candy-flavored tobacco products, sweetened alcoholic drinks and sugary beverages designed to appeal to youth, according to data from a new statewide survey released today.

The survey showed that eight in 10 stores near schools in Contra Costa sell non-cigarette tobacco products with youth-friendly flavors like watermelon, tropical blast and cherry limeade. In addition, many flavored cigarillos and little cigars sell for under $1, making them attractive and affordable to youth, said Dr. Wendel Brunner, director of Contra Costa Public Health.

“We have flavored cigarillos being sold three for one dollar across the street from a high school” Dr. Brunner said. “I don’t think there can be any doubt that these products are being targeted at kids. The candy flavoring makes the tobacco more palatable to a new smoker, and the price is right for youth without a lot of money to spend.”

The survey data was released by health advocates today at a series of regional press events throughout California to mark the launch of Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, a statewide campaign to improve the health of Californians by informing them about the impacts of unhealthy product marketing in the retail environment. The campaign is a collaboration of public health departments in California, nonprofits and community groups.

The extensive survey collected information from more than 7,300 diverse retail stores in California that sell tobacco – including 226 convenience, supermarket, liquor, tobacco, small market, discount, drug and big-box stores in Contra Costa – with the goal of shedding light on what products are available and promoted in our communities.

Nearly 700 public health representatives, community volunteers and youth participated in the survey throughout the state, which was conducted from July through October 2013.

According to the survey data, seven in 10 stores in Contra Costa have exterior advertising for unhealthy products like tobacco, sugary drinks and alcohol. Nearly 85% of stores that sell alcohol sold “alcopops,” sweetened alcoholic drinks available in single bottles or cans that often resemble energy drinks popular with youth. While sweet, alcopops are potent and dangerous — one 24-ounce can contain as much alcohol as four or more standard drinks.

“There’s a perception that alcopops are less harmful than other alcoholic beverages, which is absolutely not true,” said Haven Fearn, director of Contra Costa Health Services’ Alcohol & Other Drugs Services program. “We need to make sure youth and their parents understand the risks associated with drinking alcopops. Youth are our most precious resource, and we should support policy strategies that prevent access by youth.”

The findings also show that electronic cigarettes are widely available in Contra Costa. Nearly 52% of stores in Contra Costa sell e-cigarettes, battery-operated products that turn nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. Statewide, the number of stores selling e-cigarettes quadrupled in the last two years, from 11.5% in 2011 to 45.7% in 2013.

Dr. Brunner said the rising availability of e-cigarettes is concerning because “they can be a gateway for youth to move on to smoking.”

In response to concern from local public health officials, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted last year to ban the use of electronic cigarettes at all places where smoking is prohibited, and require retailers of electronic cigarette retailers to purchase a tobacco retailer license.

Dr. Brunner said policymakers in Contra Costa and elsewhere should consider additional measures to protect youth and others from unhealthy products. For instance, Dr. Brunner suggested expanding federal rules against flavored cigarettes to apply to other tobacco products such as cigarillos and little cigars. Brunner also said cities can adopt policies to reduce promotion of unhealthy products to youth, including limiting the amount of signage on storefronts.

“The results from this survey clearly points to the need for the community to work together to protect Contra Costa youth from tobacco influences,” said Emily Justice, co-chair of the Contra Costa Tobacco Prevention Coalition. “The Tobacco Prevention Coalition is greatly concerned about the marketing of these products near schools, and will be working with partners to create a healthier and safer Contra Costa.”

For more information on Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, visit

photo credit: Contra Costa County Health Department

Redonckulous March 5, 2014 at 2:28 PM

I get the flavored alcohol. The tobacco products. But is America as a whole now condemning Coca Cola and the like and lumping it in with Marlboro and Four Loko? The similarity is lost on me…

just1dering March 5, 2014 at 2:40 PM

And in related news water is wet.

RunDogRun March 5, 2014 at 2:44 PM

The hummingbirds get most of my
sugar, but if sugary drinks are banned,
one can now make them oneself. Take
lemonade. Sugary … yes … and loaded
with Vitamin C. I really don’t get this
overwhelming need to control the
things we eat. Should not the parents
be the ones deciding this. Perhaps a
class or lesson on nutrition in school
would be in order.

Nanny Laws March 5, 2014 at 2:47 PM

So it’s ok to sell e-cigarettes as long as they are licensed. Revenue over principal again from hypocrites.

New federal laws proposed to ban what is already legal. Tried before in prohibition. We all know how well that worked. They claim that alcohol and tobacco are so detrimental yet they continue to tax and license it’s sales.

Where do the agencies get there funds for this from? Are they just like the BAAQM people using our money to tell us what to do, without recourse on our part?

Parents need to teach the kids what to avoid for their health. They are already held responsible for criminal actions such as as smoking in a car with underaged children in it. How many more laws are needed

Whocares March 5, 2014 at 2:49 PM

All of this stuff was promoted too as I was growing up. We all make choices. As a kid I was not allowed to drink sodas of any kind very often. Parents need to set limits for their kids and hopefully those kids will grow up ti make good choices for themselves. To take choices away is not good. If people want to make bad choices, let them as long as it is not harming anyone else.

mutts March 5, 2014 at 3:04 PM

Duh…how much did THIS study cost?

that one chick March 5, 2014 at 3:21 PM

“We have flavored cigarillos being sold three for one dollar across the street from a high school” Dr. Brunner said. Don’t worry Dr. Brunner; those aren’t being used to smoke tobacco 🙂

oldman March 5, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Oh the humanity!

Monkey March 5, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Stop trying to make the world responsible for kid’s choices. That’s why we need both parents in the home to teach right & wrong.

Population Control March 5, 2014 at 4:05 PM


Gary March 5, 2014 at 4:11 PM

What a concept – holding PARENTS responsible for the actions and training of their kids…..

Watch the pushback from the politicians. They wanna pass another law.

just sayin March 5, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Not just the alcohol, what about all the energy drinks that could make a young persons heart explode!

Ah yah... March 5, 2014 at 4:15 PM

So, the Girl Scouts use children to sell cookies . And every
school function, strikes, closures, etc they march out
the children.
Again, parents should sit down with their children
and discuss these products and their consequences
I personally don’t like it when children are pandered,
or advertised to. But the easiest way is talk to them .

Rob March 5, 2014 at 4:20 PM

But if we got rid of Tobacco, Alcohol and Sugary Drinks Big Pharma would lose a LOT of future customers and the health care industry profits would take a nosedive if people didn’t develop all of the diseases and medical problems associated with Tobacco, Alcohol and Sugary Drinks…

Dorothy March 5, 2014 at 4:22 PM

Remember the “serious” study about why young kids fall of bikes? Turns out that it was because they were not developed enough to have a good sense of balance yet. Something any parent could have said without spending however much it was to do the study. This survey seems to be related to that kind of work.

Get parents to Parent March 5, 2014 at 4:36 PM

their children.

RANDOM TASK March 5, 2014 at 5:11 PM

duh go to a store and listen to the kids whine and cry for soda and or other junk they all do it …..some parents give in …others have to ……and some do it as a bribe ……how do you think Mc Donalds is still in businiess

Nanny Laws March 5, 2014 at 5:45 PM

@Rob #14

If we got rid of them all, we would just have the same black market we have with illegal drugs. Big Pharma has nothing to do with it. The hypocrites won’t give up the billions of tax dollars from taxes and regulations imposed. Please tell me where in the Constitution where they get the right to go to some of the extremes they do.

Before anyone says it, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are individual rights of choice. They deny life through abortion. These types of measures deny the choice of the other 2.

Amy March 5, 2014 at 5:58 PM

How about a new effort to bring back good parenting?

mwo1859 March 5, 2014 at 6:09 PM

What ever happened to good old strawberry hill boones?

Average White Man March 5, 2014 at 6:16 PM

Alcohol bad…. weed good…. score one for the for the left.

Mrs. Reverend Lovejoy March 5, 2014 at 6:28 PM

Ooooh, won’t SOMEBODY please think of the children!

Just me March 5, 2014 at 6:31 PM

Sweet drinks are primarily made to target females not just teens.
Hell back when I was young the girls loved Boones strawberry wine.

Ted K., SuperMax March 5, 2014 at 6:40 PM

It’s not the sugary drinks that are making kids fat… it’s the lack of physical activity and the chips, cookies, and parents’ general lack of education about nutrition.

“Think about the children!” dupes the ignorant every time.

I’m surprised liberals don’t support mandating parenting classes to protect adults from themselves. You know, “for their own good”.


Anon March 5, 2014 at 7:32 PM

Pretty sad when this nanny state groups sugary drinks with controlled substances.

Red Headed Left Handed Inuit March 5, 2014 at 7:56 PM

Reducing the reproductive potential of 12-52 femailes is an inherently good thing.

Red Headed Left Handed Inuit March 5, 2014 at 7:57 PM

Let those of the right age, the Millenials, aged 12-52, smoke, drink, procreate and all as much as they like. Let them allow their excesses to thin the herd/

Art March 6, 2014 at 4:57 AM

Mom and Dad are the real promoters. If you don’t want your kids to do it.
Then you shouldn’t do it.
Don’t smoke but you do how does that make sense to a kid?

Scott March 6, 2014 at 6:09 AM

The joke is that theyre basically saying adults dont like fruity flavors. ummm last i checked adults do the shopping, they buy the juices. they buy their gum. a lot of adult things have fruity like flavors. this is just a fight against any substance of abuse really. alcohol shouldnt be legal, if you dont understand why then do some science. It does nearly the same thing to the brain as xanax but thats a seriously abusable drug right? dangerous too right? hmmm. ooh wait they both work on GABA, our main inhibitory area in our why are some illegal and others not. beats the hell out of me, because alcohol is even worse than coming off xanax

Concordanon March 6, 2014 at 7:13 AM

Adults need to get over themselves. If I remember correctly, I was born into a recession that YOU started. All i’m trying to do is navigate my way to life through this recession. It’s hard though, picking up the pieces of something that someone else destroyed. What does this have to do with taking away sugary drinks? You’re going to outrage the future generation! I’ll admit, my generation, the millenials, is not the greatest. Yet instead of watching us make mistakes, why don’t you help us get on our feet. How are we supposed to build lives? Get a job? Well I need school for that. Go to school? Well I need money for that. Get a loan? Well then i’ll be 100,000+ in debt. Well get a job and save up money? I could, but it would take several years to save up enough for 1 year of college, and then once I began college I wouldn’t have time for a job anymore. Go to a community college? Alright, that sure is cheaper, but if I pay for 2 years of DVC to transfer to a 4 year, then I just paid for 2 extra years of unnecessary college, and i’d end up being more in debt. Work you way up through a company? Sure, but that could take an indefinite amount of years, and the promotions may stop because I don’t have a degree.

Now I know, it’s not going to be easy, obviously. My problem is, do the older generations realize how much harder it is for us then it was for them. I know a woman who is in her 40’s, she dropped out of HS at 15, and worked her way up to a human resources position. That would never happen these days. EVER. Why did the older generations have so much trust, and we don’t?

Egg Whites March 6, 2014 at 2:28 PM

It all starts with the family and what standards the parent’s are setting for their children when it comes to eating. Gee, YOU are the parent, so don’t you think you can set the tone at home?

Stop blaming the stores for “promoting” sugary drinks, alcohol, candy and all that other crap. Just because you see crap sold in stores, doesnt mean you have to buy it, does it now??? Try visiting the fruit and salad sections once in a while, people…

And since YOU are the parent you can decide how much allowance (if any) you give your children before they go to school in the morning. Perhaps bag a lunch for them, instead of handling over a few Ben Franklin’s. No money, no ability to buy candy flavored alcohol, sugary drinks, other evil food, etc.

Stop trying to be a friend to your kids, and start acting like an authoritative parental figure. I think that rest of us will thank you for it. At least then we wont have to deal drunken fatso on the bart everyday, when they are all grown up.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: